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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Rose Bowl: Spartans Time To Change The College Football Landscape

Spartan fans need to stop settling for being just being better than mediocre. It is becoming almost epidemic leading up to this Rose Bowl.  There have been a number of us that just want to “enjoy the moment” of reaching the Rose Bowl or those that believe a 12-1 season with a B1G Championship and Rose Bowl are more important than a basketball National Championship.  How can we as a fan base ask everyone else to change their perception of the Spartan Football Program if we can’t even change our own?

I wrote about this prior to the B1G Championship Game.  If you want the rest of the college football world to give you the benefit of the doubt or to get selected to the more respected bowl, you have to win.  And then go out and win again. And again.

Well we did it.  Not only did we go out with the eyes of college football on us and beat the #2 team in the nation but we did so in an impressive manner.  There are those among us that are content now. They are “enjoying the moment” if you will. Now don’t get me wrong: I am ecstatic with the win over OSU.  Absolutely love it. But I am not content. Heck the season is not even over yet!

The win over OSU is going to mean a lot less if we go and get our heads kicked in by Stanford. And God forbid OSU gets pounded by Clemson too. Suddenly that national perception is knocked back to the Stone Age.  

Let’s skip ahead and say we beat Stanford. Does that mean we have arrived?  Everything is all good? In my opinion, there is still work to do.  Iowa won the Orange Bowl in 2009.  The following year Penn State was selected to the Outback Bowl over Iowa, despite Iowa winning the head-to-head battle.  The perception of Iowa remains the same today: a decent program that can put together a magical season every now and again. It takes more than one good season to change the perception of your program.

Those that would take this season (plus a Rose Bowl victory) over a National Title in basketball show why there is a difference between the perception of our basketball program (which is undeniably respected on a national level) and our football program. Look no further than the 2011-2012 basketball season for the proof of this. That year we started off unranked and eventually finished with a share of the B1G regular season, won the B1G Tourney and made it to the Sweet 16.  And yet look at how many of us were disappointed with that outcome because we fell short of the Final Four and ultimately a National Championship.

Now this year the results of the football team are about on par with that basketball season. Unranked to start. Ended up winning the division. Won the B1G Championship. If we beat Stanford we will have some success in the postseason too.  And we are satisfied with that? Are we just that jaded by the success in basketball or are we not demanding enough in football?

Take a second to think about which B1G teams are on that national level that we want to be. Which B1G teams get the respect we want? Ohio State. Wisconsin maybe. U of M’s brand props them up but they have slipped. Same for Nebraska.  And that’s it. But since 1998 when the BCS system was instituted, only Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana and Michigan State are the only B1G teams to not play in a BCS bowl.  Illinois has made multiple appearances and how do you feel the Illinois program looks nationally?  OSU, Wisconsin, U of M and Nebraska have a ton of appearance and even those 4 have their national perception issues (see OSU getting jumped this year despite not losing).  Being content with just making it to the Rose Bowl and not following up this season with another solid year isn’t going to be enough.

I love the success that we have had this year. It is great to point to 3 of the last 4 years with 11 or more wins.  But at the end of the day, I am still hungry. I still want more.  I want what Bama has because they are disappointed by their one loss season. I want what Texas has where they fire their coach who was one win away from a conference championship because they are not playing for National Championships.  I want the term “magical season” to morph into “that is MSU doing what MSU does.”

Those changes take time but we have another opportunity to make a statement in the Rose Bowl and then again against Oregon early next year. So here we are with a seat at the table. Let’s make some noise instead of just enjoying being here.

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  1. madisonmegaplans@msn.comDecember 25, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    This is a very important article. It put's into context where we are and where we need to go as a program to achieve national perspective and recognition. It is something that cannot be done in less than a ten year period of consistency. Wisconsin is the team that has done the best job of this. For many years that program sat in the doldrums. For more than thirty years. When they were good, it was never like they were a dominant force in college football at any time in their history. They changed their perception. How? They've been to Six Rose bowls in the last 18 years. We saw how beating UM four straight barely moved the gauge. That's when I knew it was going to take time and a lot more signature wins. The journey toward national relevancy continues on Jan 1. Beat Stanford and bring the Rose Bowl Champs back to the BIG for a change.

    1. Wisconsin isn't even where we want to be at IMO. Wisconsin was getting there in the late 90's but Bielema's inability to convert the program into one that attracted better talent proved to prevent Wisconsin from really taking the big step up. Always with a weak nonconference schedule and a 2-5 bowl record (including 3 Rose Bowl loses) made Wisconsin the toast of the B1G but not on the level of the big boys.

      I prefer to ascend like Stanford has. Harbaugh took over in 2007 and Stanford was in rough shape as a football program. By 2009 they had beaten Oregon and USC and gone on to win the Sun Bowl. 2010, 12-1 record with an Orange Bowl win. Shaw has taken them on 3 more 11+ win seasons with an OT loss in the Fiesta Bowl and a Rose Bowl win (and another Rose Bowl appearance this year).

      Stanford lost twice this year and only spent 1 week outside of the top-10. They get the benefit of the doubt because of what they have done in those big games on the big stage. MSU needs to prove they are more than "one of the B1G's best."

    2. It's funny, when you talk about Wisc. it reminds me of UM. They solidified their brand throughout the 70's and forward, also by losing more bowl games than they won. What I like best about what you just wrote is saying that Beliema failed to take that success in the late 90's to attract better recruits. That delayed the program from stepping up to the next level. Now MSU has a chance to do just what you stated. Attract better recruits and compete for NC's. Folks would have laughed at that statement a few years back, but it is clear this year that they are no further away from that goal than most any other good program. Staying at that level will rely on Dantonio staying (which he will) and good players wanting to play for MSU.

  2. ATown,

    Good read. Good points. I agree but I feel the need to augment. We, the Spartan Nation, need to change ourselves in another way. We need to unshackle ourselves from the derogatory references to the program.

    We need to protest "Little Brother" as unsportsmanlike, especially when the media use it like they did in the UM and the OSU games. To that end, we need to stop referring to UM with any kind of "little" belittlement.

    We need to stop referring to ourselves by our cartoonish mascott. Conjurring an image of our lovable but baffoonish mascot is not a way to gain respect.

    We need to stop posting and promulgating negativity with respect to individual players. It is unfathomable why some feel the need to even now continue to insult and malign Andrew Maxwell. He is not the only germane example.

    Yes, indeed, Coach Dantonio has raised the bar and we have accordingly raised our expectations. Viewing a 7-6 season as unacceptable is relatively new to our fanbase and to our program. Even if it was mere inches away from greatness, it was still abysmal how dysfunctional the offense was last season. Also, when things are not going as well as we wish, we should not call for firing coaches or benching players. We should support the decisions and show trust to the people that by now have earned it.

    Last and most important is the need to understand the difference between basketball and football. In basketball you can win your way into the Title game. In football, you are voted in. The difference is: we can not demand a national championship in football. We can want it. We can hope for it. But even with winning every game and even with a stronger OOC or anything else that can augment the posture of the Spartan team to the voters, it is not something a coach can set as a goal because a key major element is just beyond the coach's and the team's control. All they can do is win and the rest is whatever it turns out to be.

    10 years to change the national perspective is necessary but, by itself, not sufficient. Not only does MSU need to be on top of the conference year in and year out, but they have to do so convincingly. "Luck" has to be cancelled out of the equation.

    All of the trendlines in the Dantonio era have been positive and pointing to a bright future. All of the records set are quite pleasing too. There is nothing pre-ordained and MSU keeping its team and family philosophies plus all the hard word and will to win we are seeing from the team can only lead to success and with constant and high level success, MSU will ultimately EARN the respect it deserves.

    It isn't over. It will NEVER be over. It's just starting.

    And we can and should expect more and not settle for anything less.

    1. typo: all the hard work... (last paragraph)

    2. Great points about needing to change the rhetoric among the fans. But I kind of like teams like U of M and OSU getting kicked around by us after calling us "Little Brother." I see your point but I think it adds more insult to the injury.

      I think you struck on another point when comparing football to basketball. Yes in basketball you can play your way into a championship but stats show that unless you are 4 seed or higher you have very little chance of that. Even more that path to the championship becomes easier the higher your ranking. MSU basketball proved its national respect in that 2011-2012 year that I mentioned. MSU and UNC beat out Mizzou (who was the consensus #3 team in the nation going into the Tourney) for the #1 seeds.

      I want to see the football team get to that level of respect. Where we are ranked #5 but the committee selects us as one of the 4 teams to compete for the title.

    3. I have a different take, 76. Not to start in fighting amongst the ranks but. . .

      You are the first that I have heard calling Sparty baffonish. I can't think of a more manly mascot. The only way to lose the cartoon image may take losing the muscle bound costume and put him on a horse like a Trojan or Seminole. Please no. I love the nickname Sparty. In Nashville on Tuesday at the local Waffle House a green S hat sits at the table next to me. I nodded and greeted him with a Sparty On. He gave me a "Sparty On" in reply. I can't even guess what would replace that love of the alma mater. Stanford has respect with a frickin tree mascot. Don't mess with Sparty.

      I guess I don't read deep enough into the reply's on many blogs to see the negative comments on individual players. It seems like years to me since our receivers were dropping passes like hot potatoes but it was only months ago. Haven't heard lately that it's time to bench someone.

      Most importantly to me, and I agree with A Town, embrace Little Brother, don't expect the media and others to drop it. Demanding retractions sounds childish. We need them to say Little Brother has grown up after we beat the chUMps for the ninth time in ten games. Wins will take care of derogatory statements.

      And this season, luck has not been part of any equation. Maybe the luck of the Irish but I digress. Double digit wins in all nine B1G games and a Rose Bowl victory will go far to a top ten preseason ranking for 2014. Unfortunately, we all know the Buckeyes will be ranked above us until this year's result becomes habitual.

      SPARTY ON!

    4. Oh, and just last week, a Spartan fan ragged on Maxwell, maligning him. It has been ongoing the whole season. Cook has been chosen. Done. Cook has been doing the job. Done. So why is there any need to defame Maxwell? Dunno. It happens and when it does, it belittes the whole program. IMHO.

  3. C Mann,

    I do not recall any of the places where buffoon was used in describing Sparty, but it has occurred.

    And, no, you are not being contentious. You are not picking a fight. An open, honest, respectful conversation is always welcome. When faced with new information or well-founded opinions, I can change my viewpoint. But until respect given is equal to respect earned, I shall endeavor to find things that COULD be cause for the imbalance.

    Aside from MSU, what programs are referred to by their sideline mascot? I don't recall tO$U ever being referred to as Brutus or Wisconsin as Bucky.

    I was quite surprised at the gall shown by ABC in announcing the upcoming game, just moments before it started as "Michigan versus Little Brother Michigan State." Are we to accept that? During the Championship Game, the Spartans were referred to as "Little Brother," which I found highly inappropriate. It is one thing to have it used in the context of the UM-MSU rivalry, but when it is used outside of that context, do we really think it is appropriate?

    The Hart Insult is the epitome of unsportmanship. It has been 6 seasons and 5 wins since then and we accept the reference that we are UM's underling? While I agree that protests will fall on deaf ears, I do also believe that we should not aid in perpetuating that insult.

    1. Interesting holiday conversation. I'm personally more interested in the explanation (not yet given) for why Bullough was terminated.

      But, FWIW: I always call Ohio STATE "Brutus" and Wisconsin "Bucky". I just think it's fun and simple to call teams by their mascot nickname. When it comes to UM, I'm stuck calling them "the weasels", which gets some folks uncomfortable, but without a true mascot, we can also call them "the chUMps".

      However, the "Little Brother" thing is like fighting words to me. If some chUMp was ever to call me that to my face, I would have to have a conversation about it a point-blank range. ABC should be literally demolished for what they did.

    2. Well, unfortunately, I am in agreement with 76 on his points. I mean, I wish I didn't feel the same way he does about Sparty, but I do. . For some reason, I don't like to be called Sparty. Maybe it doesn't sound like the nickname for a true warrior. Maybe in that sense it diminishes the nature of what a Spartan is. Now the little brother thing, that's a toughie. It has begun to stick, so the harder you fight it, just like quicksand, the worse it may get. I don't like it. It's not going away because we want it to at this point. Winning will make it seem obsolete over time. However, once Dantonio responded to it, it became legend. It is where Dantonio and State threw down the gauntlet. So even though we may not like it at all, it is the symbol of the nexus, the point of change, we will refer to in the future as a new starting point in the program after a 40 year period of limbo. So "little brother" can serve as a positive symbol in some respects. There is the period before little brother, BLB, and after little brother, ALB. LOL!!.

  4. The Michigan State Spartans are playing in the Rose Bowl. "Sparty" is a green, foam man who will cheer them on from the sidelines (though, to his credit, he is a champ in his particular field and does have some killer guns).
    Back when the "Sparty" term first started annoying my ears, I knew of no MSU alumni or then-current students (student-athletes included) who used it in reference to anyone or anything but Sparty. They may not have been quite so sensitive to it as I was, but it was at the least regarded as a curiosity. "Yeah... Yeah, why do they call us Sparty?" To which, maybe some of you guys know the answer? I have no idea the genesis of this very peculiar designation.
    "Sparty On!" may annoy me to no end (what the h*ll does it even mean??), but it seems that it's become recognizeable to the college football fanbase in general. I don't suspect that "Roll Tide!" needs to worry, but nevertheless it's cool to think of MSU Athletics having such visibility outside of Lansing.

    1. "Sparty On" has been around since the 90's after the SNL characters Wayne and Garth (Wayne's World) would give each other the salute "Party on, Wayne" and "Party on, Garth." It's been SPARTY ON ever since.

  5. Rose Bowl. Sweet. No use of the Hart Insult, thank you ESPN. No use of "Sparty." Thank you ESPN.

    The only insult and this probably is another case of the M4 bias was on the B1G Ten Network.

    The BTN, in its infinite wisdom, replayed a Rose Bowl from a few years back exactly opposite to the live game in Pasadena.

    The 2 teams in that replay? Washington and Michigan.

    All I can think of is the BTN thought the AA crowd would like something to watch that they might actually enjoy.

    It isn't over. It will never be over. It's just starting.


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